A pilot project initiated by the Karnataka Forest Department in India to monitor and detect the presence of forest fires with the help of satellites detected as many as 180 cases, of various intensities, across the State from January to June this year. It has been reported that the fires, however, ranged from high to moderate and low intensities, and did not cause any serious harm. The Rs 5 lakh pilot project initiated in collaboration with the Karnataka State Remote Sensing Applications Centre made use of the remote sensing data available on the MODIS satellite platform, which has transponders dedicated to sense fire incidences on the earth’s surface.
The study has helped identify the most vulnerable areas in terms of the occurrence of forest fires. Currently a zone map is being prepared identifying those areas in which forest fires are frequent along with maps describing the intensities of forest fires in various areas, and the approach to fire suppression. A Rs 4 crore proposal has been submitted to the Centre for implementing the project in the State, the official stated, adding that the funds would be restricted to areas for use around vulnerable areas. It is estimated that it would take at least five years of continuous monitoring to get a clear picture, he said that once the preliminary zone maps are ready, the Deputy Conservators of Forests would each be provided with one for better monitoring. There are plans to appoint forest fire watchmen too. Besides, the vulnerable areas will be enclosed by fire lines, which are strips of forest areas cleared of all vegetation to prevent the spread of forest fires. However, the task of demarcating the fire lines and other measures described in the project will begin only in December. Apart from the vulnerable areas, the surrounding villages will be provided with funds and its people trained so that they could assist in forest management, he said, adding that village forest committees would play an important role in preventing forest fires.